In Lithuania, most bars serve a selection of what they call “užkandžiai prie alaus” — literally, “snacks to beer”.
After a very nice tour of the country a few years ago, we got into the habit of referring to a whole range of peculiar foods you only ever eat with beer as “snacks to beer”.
This post is the first in occasional series on what we think are the very best nibbles to accompany booze. Expect to see pretzels, pork scratchings and a Spanish delicacy we call “chicken tikka fish” covered in the future.
But for now, it’s only fitting that we start with the original snack to beer — Lithuanian “kepta duona”.
It’s not remotely fancy, it’s not good for you, but it’s a great snack to beer for several reasons. Firstly, it’s salty and oily. Now, I know greasy is good is bad for your beer. It makes it go flat. But, frankly, who cares — it just works. Secondly, you can eat it with your fingers. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it soaks up booze…
If you fancy making what is, in effect, slightly burned garlic fried bread, our best attempt at a recipe is after the jump…
We couldn’t find a recipe online so we made one up. But, I mean, how hard can it be to fry some bread? So, here goes with our best guess, which turned out pretty well.
– 1 small loaf of rye bread
– caraway seeds
– cooking oil
– 1-2 cloves of garlic
1. Cut some rye bread into fingers (or “soldiers” for those of you who like a dippy egg). It’s easy to get rye bread in London now, because Polish and Lithuanian migrants have established a demand. If you can’t get it, any dark brown bread — wholemeal, or maybe even something with nuts in — should do the job.
2. Rub each finger with a crushed garlic clove. One clove will do ten or so fingers before it disintegrates in your fingers.
3. Heat some oil in a pan. Get it smoking hot. You’ll want about four or five tablespoons for ten fingers of bread. We used olive oil, because we’re complete ponces, but I suspect the Lithuanians use pork dripping…
4. Sprinkle in some caraway seeds – about half a teaspoon. They’ll snap, crackle and pop.
5. Lay the bread carefully in the oil and leave it on one side for 1-2 minutes.
6. Turn it all over. It should almost be turning black. Sprinkle quite liberally with salt.
7. After another minute or so, tip the whole lot out onto a piece of kitchen towel to drain.
8. Serve on a small plate, with a big glass of fizzy lager. The picture below hardly does it justice — the smell is fantastic.
If anyone wants to correct our recipe, we’d be delighted to hear your suggestions. Also, why not let us know your favourite “snacks to beer”…?